Latest reviews by Dodie Mercer

(2019)
"Best Dang Race in Pittsburgh"
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I absolutely loved this race and have no idea why I never ran it sooner! The course was fast (for Pittsburgh that's unheard of) and every mile was full of Pittsburghness to keep you smiling.

The race was on a Saturday this year which isn't typical. Because of this the expo was Friday night. I had to work until 4:00 and I was afraid I'd be cutting it close to get there before it closed so I had my friend Nikki pick up my packet.

My favorite part of the race swag was the gloves. I wound up wearing them for the entire race. You were also given a half zip as a race shirt which was a pretty nice touch.

Race morning we were told to park in Station Square where the start was located. Post race there shuttles that took us back since this was a point to point race. At the start they had plenty of bathrooms and gear check was very efficient.

I'd been told the course was basically the half run backward and I'd say that's pretty accurate. What's nice about that is there were a lot of downhills early and the last few miles of the race through the Strip District were basically flat.

Each mile had it's own unique Pittsburgh theme such as Mr. Rogers, cookie tables, pickles, city of bridges, parking chairs and my personal favorite Pittsburghese which had the Pittsburgh dad yelling at us on a megaphone.

Aid stations were ample on course and stocked with Nuun!

The finisher medal features the race's logo and a very prominent "10" indicating the distance.

At the finish there was plenty of food including my personal favorite, Eat'n Park cookies. I wasn't feeling well so I didn't hang around long unfortunately.

Overall this race was fantastic. I would absolutely run it again and I plan on making it a tradition.

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(2019)
"Fast, Flat and the Best Party in Chicago on Two Feet"
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Chicago was incredible. I'm always a little anxious about large out of town races but this one went smoothly.

I Ubered to the expo from my hotel for about $25. For me it was a little easier than trying to figure out the trains since I was traveling alone.

The expo was a little overwhelming to my but what you would expect from large race. Packet pick up was efficient and the vendors were spaced out enough that it didn't feel like you were jammed in there.

There was just about every running vendor on hand that you could think of including Nuun, Picky Bars and my personal favorite, Goose Island!

Our swag bags had the usual, a few samples and a few flyers. We also had been e-mailed a virtual goody bag with all sorts of discounts throughout Chicago. The shirt was a red short sleeve tech shirt. I'm the odd man out in that I'd much rather have a cotton shirt but this was nice quality.

I took a cab back to my hotel (they were lined out and waiting outside of the expo, $25).

I purposely chose to stay downtown because I wanted to be within walking distance of the start and finish. It was a little pricey and required a three night minimum stay but I felt that it was worth it to have that accessibility.

Race morning I walked to the start with my Team in Training charity. It was nice to be running with them because they helped us find the entrance to our gate. I've never been to a start line this big. MCM is close but not near as big.

We started in three different staggered waves to keep space in between the runners.

The start of the race wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be. We were stretched across enough lanes that I wasn't running into people. It seemed like the whole city turned out to cheer us on. It was LOUD.

This course is flat and fast. The miles ticked by quickly. In other races I've ran the spectators thin out but they seemed everywhere in Chicago! I had to pause my music several times because I could hear it over the screams!

There were plenty of aid stations throughout the course and they weren't overcrowded at all.

At the finish they were handling out the usual water and bananas as well as Goose Island beers!

Overall this was a fantastic race. Leading up to the race we received plenty of communication, the race app was well designed and I can't say enough good things about the race itself.

Definitely a must run marathon!

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(2019)
"Running the Ragged Edge of the Western World"
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Big Sur has been a dream of mine for years and this year that dream came true.

I flew into California on Friday and stayed in Monterey.

The expo was a short 10 minute Uber ride from my hotel the next day. Packet pick up was a snap and the expo itself was a lot of fun. Normally I'm not a big fan of expos but I enjoyed this one. I bough a race jacket (something I never do) and even stayed for happy hour that was presented by Sufferfest.

The shirts were a long sleeve tech shirt and we were e-mailed a virtual goody bag leading up to the race.

Race morning I took a cab to the shuttle bus area. At the expo you were given shuttle tickets based on where you were staying, My bus was leaving at 4:00am which sounded extremely early for a 6:45 start.
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As the bus wove it's way along the coast I understood why we left so early. By the time we got to the start line it was 6:00! I had just enough time to hit up a porta potty before getting into my corral.

My one and only complaint about the entire race weekend was the porta potty situation. The were along the left side of the back of the corral area. To the right side was the fenced off VIP area. This left little space for lines to form and it was a giant mash of people. To even get to a line you had to jostle through the crowd that was already in line. If they had been lined up along the back I think things would have went smoother.

The race starts off the in the woods and it's pretty down hill. It was hard not to get too carried away.

Once the ocean came into view it was hard to contain my excitement! We passed a lighthouse that looked like it was on an island in the distance and my picture taking started.

At mile 11 I started the two mile up hill climb to Hurricane Point. As I climbed I could hear the Taiko drummers in the distance encouraging me to keep going. When I got to the top the view made it all worth it. I smiled so hard my face hurt.

The next few miles were down hill and I was just finding a groove when I heard the piano music from the Bixby Bridge. I started crying.

I had to force myself to stop to take photos and videos of the bridge and coastline. This is was the exact reason I came to Big Sur and I wanted to take it all in.

As I floated down the hill and across the Bixby Bridge he played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". The whole thing felt so surreal.

Then came the "rolling hills". I live in Central Pennsylvania where we have plenty of hills. These hills put my hills to shame.

No one warmed me that the final 10k is the toughest stretch!

The aid stations really kept me in the game throughout the whole race. Aside from having water and Gatorade they also had a BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) station at the end where you could refill your water bottle. This is the first time I've ever seen that at a race and I think it's a great idea.

At mile 23 I snagged some strawberries and tried to focus on the remaining miles. The ocean views helped distract me a little.

Around mile 25 or so I stopped and had a beer!

I could hear the finish line before I saw it and was thrilled to finally be there. The medals were some sort of ceramic with the iconic Big Sur lettering.

After I collected my medal I went through and grabbed some food from the tables that were set up. The only thing I didn't see was water or Gatorade. Usually someone is handing them out right at the finish but I didn't see anyone nor did I see any coolers. Luckily, I still had some left in my water bottle.

I found the Sufferfest tent and had my celebratory post race beer then I found the shuttles to head back to Monterey. Once I got back into town I took an Uber back to my hotel.

Overall I can't say enough great things about this race. The logistics of flying to California to run a point to point race scared me a little but the whole thing went smoothly. The views are everything you can imagine and then some.

Every runner should have Big Sur on their bucket list!

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(2019)
"Not Your Typical D.C. Race!"
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This was my third time running a race in D.C. but my first RnR D.C. half. Previously I've run MCM and Cherry Blossom.

RnR D.C. was a lot different from the start. The expo was held at the Armory and because I hit some bad weather driving into town I wound up getting there two hours before it closed. There were three lines out the door to get in which was a first for me. I waited out in the snow for 40 minutes before making it inside. The hold up was that they were checking backs and wanding everyone with metal detectors before allowing us to enter.

Once I got inside the expo the packet pick up process went smooth since I already knew my bib number. I took a quick trip around the expo to check out the vendors then headed out.

Typically I don't like race shirts but this one really grew on me. It's a short sleeve tech shirt with an eagle and a record. It struck me as funny so I kept it.

Getting to the start line was a snap because I caught an Uber down. The corrals were very well managed with large, clear entry points.

The race itself took us through more of downtown D.C. rather than around the monuments like MCM and Cherry Blossom do. I enjoyed the change in scenery.

Mile 6 started the Blue Mile which is dedicated to service men and women that have lost their lives. This is always such a somber mile for reflection.

This also happened to be the biggest hill on the course. The Blue Mile volunteers really helped me get to the top.

The remainder of the course was gently rolling hills until the end.

There were plenty of water stops, aid stations and bands along the course.

I even stopped for some Guinness at mile 9 that a local group was handing out!

The race finished right outside of RFK Stadium where bands were playing.

RnR races throw hands down the best after parties. I snagged water, Gatorade, chips, fruit snacks, a banana, chocolate milk and some pizza.

Trying to get out of the race was a different story though. My hotel was 2 miles away so I figured I'd just catch an Uber. It took over and hour and a half to get one. There aren't any restaurants or coffee shops down by the stadium so I walked a few blocks with some other runners to a 7/11 to grab coffee and wait. I've never had this much trouble trying to get back from a race and it put a damper on the amazing experience I had.

If you plan to run this race in the future plan ahead for better arrangements to get out.

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(2019)
"My New Favorite Half!"
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Hands down this is the best half marathon I've ever ran!

I hit the expo up on Saturday and it was easy to get to with ample parking. There were plenty of vendors on hand including one of my favorites, Koala Clip!

I stayed right on the boardwalk so on race morning I rolled out of bed and was to the start line in less than 15 minutes. Again parking was ample for those staying in the hotel and those driving in for the race.

The race it's is almost 100% flat. We were in a wooded area for a bit then ran through a military base which was pretty cool. The finish was right on the boardwalk in front of the Neptune stature.

Aid stations were able on the course with plenty of Gaterade and water. There were also plenty of beer stations manned by race supporters!

At the finish we were given a ton of cool swag including a bag, hat and fleece blanket. The food was ample as well.

Post race there was a party right on the beach with live bands, beef stew and four drink tickets for Yuenling!!! It was the most fun I've ever had at an after party and I stayed for five hours!

I would hands down recommend this race to anyone that loves running 13.1 miles and having a good time. I'll definitely be back!

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